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Udu & Ibo Drums

Udu Drums: African Percussion at Your Fingertips

Udu drums, also called ibo drums, are a great way to get a variety of different bass sounds in a compact package. These drums are available on eBay in a number of different materials and configurations. Learn more about the different options with this buyers guide.

What is an udu or ibo drum?

The udu or ibo originated in Nigeria. These drums look like a rounded clay pot with a long, skinny neck. Specifically, it is the size and shape of traditional water jugs. A small hole with a membrane can be found on one side of the drum. The piece is played by tipping it on its side. Different drumming sounds can be heard by playing the flat bottom or the rounded side. A third bass sound can be made by hitting the membrane hole, and the pitch of these percussion instruments can be changed based on the angle in which you hit it. These drums are sometimes called tri-drums because of the three different sounds that you can make by hitting the same instrument in different locations.

What materials are these instruments made from?

The gourd-like shape of the ibo drum suggests that the original percussion instrument may have come from a gourd. Though some novelty versions may exist, this is not one of the main versions that you can find there. By the time the udu was discovered by the outside world, it was typically made from clay. Other options include:

  • Raw clay - This is the most traditional sound. It offers a muted sound that can be amplified by rings or other jewelry. It is a great choice if you want something rustic or you want authentic sounds from Africa.
  • Porcelain or ceramic - This is a more Western version of the traditional clay drum. The drumming is like clay but a bit more metallic. These are medium-weight drums that are durable and long-lasting. This is a common version of this style of drum.
  • Fiberglass - This modern material is durable and waterproof. The music it makes is a more muted percussion beat than harder, more brittle materials offer.
  • Wood - There is a lot of variety in tone to be offered by using different woods, similar to the tone changes that you can find in string instruments.
Electric ibo drums

Recording with an udu can be done with an electric, miked version of these drums. These versions are often made of fiberglass with a built-in microphone hole that sits next to the membrane hole. The pieces can be attached to amplifiers in addition to being recorded from the inside. This is a common practice for outdoor performances like busking and other places where you need audio projection.

Styles of music played with ibos

Percussion is found in almost every genre of music. Many musicians like to sample instruments from around the world. In addition to African music, you can also find examples of these drums in the following:

  • Latin songs from various countries
  • Classical songs performed by the London Philharmonic
  • Drum circles and other collaborative events